Luke Kuechly is earning the best LB grade of the PFF era
When we developed our 0-100 rating system, we made it to account for every great season we’ve seen so far since beginning to grade every NFL player in the 2007 season, and we even prepared for a player to perform a little better than the best we’ve seen.
We did not account for a player playing significantly better than the best we’ve ever seen, and that’s exactly what Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly is doing. He’s playing so well that it has broken the scale to our 0-100 system.
Kuechly has only played in eight games this season, but even if he were to miss the rest of the season, or regress to the level of an average linebacker for the rest of the season, he already has the best grade we’ve seen from an ILB or 4-3 OLB — ignoring those who predominantly pass rush rather than drop into coverage.
If Kuechly continues on the rate he’s on, he will have a +52.3 grade to end the season, which is incredible for a linebacker. He already leads this list of the 10 highest cumulative season grades we’ve ever given a linebacker:
Part of his great play is his run defense. His 17.6 run-stop percentage is the best for any defensive player regardless of position with at least 100 snaps against the run. Every linebacker who has at least 20 tackles in the run game this year has missed at least one tackle. Kuechly is one of seven linebackers with 30 or more tackles in the run game, and just one missed tackle.
In coverage he has three interceptions, and four passes defended with no touchdowns allowed. When quarterbacks have thrown his way, they’ve had an NFL passer rating of 47.4, which is the second-lowest among all linebackers. He is the one of just three linebacker with more than 25 tackles in coverage, and only one missed tackle.
Both of these skills were on full display on Thanksgiving in Carolina’s oad win over Dallas. The Cowboys only had 12 designed runs, but Kuechly had two run stops, giving him the best run-stop percentage among linebackers on Thursday. He also had back-to-back interceptions. His +5.4 grade in the game was the fourth-best we’ve given to an inside linebacker this season.
Two weeks ago we named Kuechly the midseason defensive player of the year, and since then his case has become even stronger. What Kuechly is doing right now is exceptionally special.